Melbourne: Jan 22, 2012
Struggling India are desperate to avoid the ignominy of another 4-0 series wipe-out in the fourth and final Test against Australia starting at the Adelaide Oval on Tuesday.
It has been a tour from hell for the Indians, collapsing to heavy defeats in Melbourne, Sydney and Perth and with their skipper MS Dhoni suspended for the Adelaide Test for a slow over rate in the abject third Test defeat.
India, who relinquished their top Test ranking when they were crushed 4-0 in England last year, face their eighth consecutive away defeat if they cannot prevent the rejuvenated Australians from inflicting another drubbing.
Test cricket's greatest run scorer, Sachin Tendulkar, is still seeking his 100th international century and has the chance to reach the mark at the Adelaide "home" ground of cricket legend Don Bradman.
It has been a frustrating time for Tendulkar, 38, and probably on his farewell tour of Australia, missing out on his elusive ton in six innings in the series so far.
Tendulkar, stuck on 99 Test and one-day international hundreds, has now gone 10 Tests and 20 innings without a hundred, one of the longest waits for a Test century in his 187-Test career.
But while fingers have been pointed at India's ageing batsmen for their role in India's sorry series, Tendulkar has been solid, scoring 249 runs at an average of 41.50.
The Adelaide Test looms as a crucial one for senior batsman VVS Laxman, who at 37 is under extreme pressure over his Test future after a miserable series in which he has scored just 102 runs at an average of 17.
Laxman reportedly batted for nearly two hours in the Adelaide Oval nets on Thursday in a desperate bid to regain his touch with indications that he will play in the final Test.
The pressure is also on Virender Sehwag, who will lead India, still ranked number two in the world, in Dhoni's enforced absence.
Sehwag has not lost a Test in his three matches at the helm but he is another senior batsman out of form and needs a typical buccaneering knock to galvanise his team.
"Ultimately, I have always believed that a captain is only as good as his team," opening batsman Gautam Gambhir said.
"MS (Dhoni) has done a great job, but it is the entire team that has not performed and that needs to take the blame."
Little has gone right for India -- thrashed by 122 runs in Melbourne and by an innings and 68 runs in Sydney, both inside four days, before an abysmal innings and 37-run defeat inside three days in Perth.
Australia's bowlers have dominated, with swing bowler Ben Hilfenhaus taking 23 wickets in the series at 16 apiece and Peter Siddle 17 wickets at under 20.
While India's decorated batsmen have yet to score a century in the three Tests, Australia have scored four, including skipper Michael Clarke's 329 not out.
"As Michael Clarke said after the game (in Perth), celebrate your win, but at the end of the day we want to try and beat the second team in the world four-nil," opening batsman David Warner said.
"That's a massive thing for us. Our goal is to become number one again (in the world) by the next Ashes in 2013. If we can keep working towards that, our goals will be achieved."
Adelaide is regarded as a batting wicket and spinner Nathan Lyon is expected to come into Australia's team after being left out on the pace-friendly WACA pitch in Perth. (AFP)